Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Favignana Island


We left Castellammare with the stark backdrop of the sheer mountain rising right up behind it and drove towards Trapani. The mountains gradually became rolling hills with vineyards, olive groves, lemon, orange and almond orchards and fields with market garden crops for local markets. We had to slow down once as a shepherd herded his long-haired sheep up the side of the road beside us.

Once settled in Trapani, we decided to take the hydrofoil over to Favignana, the largest of the three Egadi Islands. The international highpoint for the islands came when Catulus defeated the Carthaginian fleet and Sicily became part of the Roman Empire. All the usual suspects have been here, the Saracens, Normans and Bourbons. As you approach the island and look up you see towering over the island the fort built originally by the Saracens as a lookout.

After the short twenty-five minute trip we went off in search of lunch. On the way we passed the now defunct tuna packing plants that were owned by the Florio family, who bought the three islands in the late 1800s. We found a plain little restaurant on one of the squares, which served lovely food. Since Favignana is a seaport we both had grilled swordfish, tuna and 'melt in your mouth' shrimps for me and calamari for Seamus. The meal was excellent.

We walked down some very narrow streets, with rusty old bicycles sitting outside some houses. It became apparent that bicycles were a common mode of transportation. In front of us was the crystal clear sea with an adjacent promenade. Looking over the seawall we could see where the islanders had carved out much of the rock that lined the shore. Much of this was used in walls, which were everywhere. Some you could see had been used for building houses or the two-storey blue and white apartments that we saw everywhere. As we started walking inland we could see more remnants of the tufo mining, the rocks having been cut out of the ground and either used or shipped off to other parts of Sicily. Most of these mini quarries are now overgrown with a profusion of prickly pears, palms, wild fennel, olive, lemon and orange trees. These strange and lovely sunken gardens were often overlooked by groups of houses or apartments.

As we headed down the narrow streets towards the port, we heard a man with a beautiful voice singing about a lost love. As we got closer we could see the eighty-year-old or more leaning out of his window. After exchanging "Buona seras" with us he went back to his love song.

Back in the port once again we watched people buying freshly caught, tiny, skinny, long swordfish for their dinner. What little we saw of the island during our brief visit, we found enchanting; if it wasn't already the last day of our trip we would definitely have spent more time on Favignana. Our hydrofoil arrived and after a short but noisy trip with workers returning home to Trapani, we disembarked.

Tonight, down a side street, we found a lovely authentic pizza restaurant that made pizza just like the owner's nonna. The plastic glasses took nothing away from the lovely melt-in-your-mouth pizza. The walls had old family pictures and some very dusty, old bottles of wine on shelves. It was a treat to eat there with all the locals.

Tomorrow we return home, and will post the first few days of our trip and our pictures. I hope you've enjoyed travelling with us.

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